Saturday, November 8

Several things that end in a big, long rant

I woke up today and went to Bad Boy Burger to get myself a breakfast burrito (nice alliteration, eh?) and noticed that the inversion is here. Yucky doodle.

Synchronicity is an interesting phenomenon I encounter pretty often. You could argue whether the instances I observe are "meaningful" or not, (see the Wikipedia entry for synchronicity), but they are definitely interesting and worth thinking about. Last weekend was a stellar weekend for synchronous events. I already talked about the Star Trek occurrence. On Friday I got a Happy Halloween text message from someone that said something like, "I love you and your friendship means a lot to me, but if zombies were chasing us, I'd totally trip your ass." After I read it, I noticed that the song "Zombie" by the Cranberries (Preachberries) was playing on my coworker's radio.

The next day, I was talking to April about synchronicity, and she said she'd been discussing it recently with one of her coworkers in regard to band names (apparently there is a weird phenomena wherein bands will pop up all over the place with the same or similar band names, album names, and song names, though the bands are all too obscure to have heard of each other), leading she and her coworker to believe in Jung's theory of the collective unconscious. Right after she told me this, I told her that she looked like Anne Hathaway from certain angles. She said that was funny because she used to date a guy who went to high school with Anne Hathaway and dated her. Obviously, I said, that guy has a thing for girls with dark hair and big, dark eyes. "Obviously," April agreed. A few minutes later I noticed a postcard on her fridge with a photo of a bodybuilder dousing himself with beer. "Is this Arnold Schwarzenegger?" I asked her. "I don't think so. Hey! That guy we were just talking about gave that to me--the one who dated Anne Hathaway."

Later that day, I had a random conversation with someone about Transformers. The next day, as I was driving home from my Flying Pie Pizza date and wondered, hm, am I going to see any corresponding reference to Transformers soon? When I got home, I decided to record The Simpsons and Family Guy, and wouldn't you know, my DVR informed me that The Simpsons' Treehouse of Horror featured a spoof of Transformers (and The Great Pumpkin).

This morning, as I was waiting for my coffee to brew so I could take it with me to Bad Boy, I started thinking about why I don't watch the Headline News during breakfast any more; because as we all know, the news in America is nothing but bad news--if it's not violence, it's at least people being nasty or negative in some way (especially on CNN Headline News). I picked up the very excellent Heart of a Dog, by Mikhail Bulgakov (who is possibly my greatest love), and read a few pages whilst my coffee was spluttering out the final drops into the pot. Here is the conversation I read:

"And--heaven preserve!--don't read any Soviet newspapers before dinner."

"Hm...But there are no others."

"That's just it, don't read any. You know, I carried out thirty tests at my hospital. And what do you think? Patients who read no newspapers feel excellent. But those whom I deliberately compelled to read Pravda lost weight."


"But that isn't all. They had lowered knee-tap reflex, rotten appetite, a depressed state of mind."

There is more going on here than just stating that the news causes people to become depressed; it's an expression of Bulgakov's anti-Soviet sentiments and more. What's interesting to me is the question of why throughout history the news has seemed to consist of negative and depressing information.

Headline News is either a good or a bad example; I use it because it represents what the average citizen watches--not the more educated individuals who seek out more intellectual and complete news coverage. In each half hour, Headline News devotes about five or six minutes total to the actual headlines, while the other 24 minutes are devoted to commercials, the weather, financial updates, salutes to the troops, entertainment, and special interest stories. The last two minutes of each half hour are given to local news channels to give local news updates.

If you turn on Headline News during the non-headline periods, the features are more often than not (I'd say at least two-thirds of the time) needlessly negative--as are the two-minute local updates, which here in Boise are done by Channel 2 (8 if you have cable) CBS News. The CNN non-headline stories almost always consist of "eyewitness" videos people filmed on their cell phones and uploaded to CNN's website, or that come from surveillance systems at businesses.

Here are some of the things I've seen on these features (conveniently organized into their own obnoxious 30-minute eyewitness show titled "News to Me"): explosions, violent COPS-style arrests, car wrecks, fist-fights, people stealing gas, plane crashes, child abuse, drug abuse, people giving drugs to toddlers, a grown man punching a teenage girl in the face for cutting in line at a McDonald's, teenage girls ganging up on and beating the shit out of another teenage girl for "talking shit" (actually, this one made headlines everywhere)... The local news updates on CNN are always two minutes of local murders, rapes, assaults, arrests, drug-busts, fires...and nothing else.

Why do the news producers think people need to see this shit? And it is shit. It's fucking bullshit. Everyone knows that what attracts viewers/ratings is sensational shit like this, or political or other public figures bad-mouthing each other, (remember that stupid Donald Trump/Rosie O'Donnell pissing contest and how much news coverage it got?), but what I'm interested in is why? Is this really what people want to see? Have they grown so accustomed to seeing terrible shit on tv that they can't get enough of it? (Yes! Hence the popularity of awful torture films like the Saw series).

When I worked at the call center, I couldn't take a breath without some middle-aged woman in a nearby cubie saying to someone, "did you hear about that (insert horrible local child abuse/murder story here)?" They were never interested in discussing anything else and would talk about this stuff all day, every day. When I started working at my current job, I had a coworker who would try to read all the horrible local child abuse/murder cases aloud to me, and she'd get really frustrated when I told her I didn't want to hear them. She was one of the most unhappy people I've ever encountered in my life.

I just want to know: are people so un self-aware that they don't know this stuff is bad for them? Does the media know it's assisting to keep people in a constant state of depression? Why do people like to see/read so much about people being terrible to each other?


Polly said...

I know lots of people near our age who have completely forsaken the news in their pursuit of enlightenment. Although that sounds really nice sometimes, the idea of being completely unaware is alarming to me. I think that there needs to be a balance. Based on a nutrition book that I am reading right now it is probably best that we forsake the news while eating, at the very least.

Jenny said...

I don't think being uninformed is the answer, but avoiding some local news outlets and 24-hour cable news programming is probably a good idea. Or move to Canada, where they don't show all that violence on the news.

j4luck said...

I worked quite closely with people doing massage therapy for several years and I can say without a doubt that yes, people are that unaware of themselves! I have come to believe that some people thrive on misery and fear, like a drug.
I completely believe in Jung's theory of the collective consciousness, like a giant energetic spider web. I don't think synchronicity is coincidental at all, I believe that we attract things to us through thought energy. Sometimes I wonder if everybody sees a completely different world than the person next to them based on what their thoughts are and the types of things those thoughts attract to them.

Jenny said...

You are so right. Some weird coincidence happens to me every day. Just now, I was trying to find a website I was reading about 3 weeks ago, but I couldn't remember the guy's name or his website or anything. I decided to go look at this other website called instead. Then I found an article on ZenHabits linking to the other guy's website. I had no idea they were linked at all. So weird!

j4luck said...

Then what's even weirder is while you were looking for that web site and found ZenHabits, you also found that Gratitude article which you posted on my blog! Then I'm on your blog reading about synchronicity and notice on your list of blogs the one titled the Hapiness Project. I think : "ooh that looks interesting" then I open it up and find a list of all kinds of self improvements articles (I am a self improvement junkie, I admit). But when I am looking through the links on that blog, of course I see: ZenHabits!